At Priority Designs, our mission for the past 30+ years has been to help our clients create successful products and brands, providing support and expertise throughout the design process. From the beginning, we have strived for excellence as researchers, designers, engineers, and prototypers. But, there is an aspect we don’t often mention — we strive to be excellent neighbors. What does that mean for us as a product development firm? Over the years we have sought ways to connect with and support our local community of Whitehall and Columbus. Recently, this effort has caused us to engage in social impact design. This field aims to use design to tackle social, environmental, and economic issues.
In this blog post, we will discuss how social impact design fits into our mission and our initial forays into the social impact field.
After focusing on social impact design for my senior capstone, I’ve continued to be interested in finding ways to serve the community through the unique talents and abilities present at Priority Designs. There’s something special about connecting an individual with a unique passion to a well-deserving organization that mutually elevates the value and satisfaction of the partnership.
Working with community organizations challenges you to work excellently, with the benefit of seeing it impact your community. It creates better researchers – growing in empathy from engaging with individuals with vastly different backgrounds, better learners – not relying on their own hypotheses and expectations but trusting those with personal experience as the true experts, and better designers – not sacrificing aesthetics or functionality, striving to meet user needs and solve necessary problems.
In 2015, our office relocated to a renovated car dealership in Whitehall, hopeful that we could have a positive impact on the surrounding community. Over the following years, we have witnessed the community change and have embraced new businesses moving in around us. We are humbled to have a small role in this community and eagerly anticipate its continued growth and prosperity.
Both as an organization and the individuals within it, we have always valued positive community stewardship and involvement. Our efforts in this area have evolved organically over time. We have tried to support and foster our staff members’ passions for the community, through fundraising or volunteering for different causes that are significant to us. Again and again, as we reach out to serve, it seems we too reap unexpected benefits, and this service has now become deeply ingrained in our culture.
While we will continue to seek ways to benefit our community through service and volunteering, we have realized that there is an unmet need to separate our service from our capabilities. Our desire has grown to collaborate with the organizations that are making a difference and positively impacting our community through our capabilities, skills, and facility.
This is where social impact design entered the picture.
Social impact design is an industry that is focused on finding solutions that create positive outcomes for individuals and communities. It incorporates design disciplines such as research, strategy, engineering, prototyping, and development to tackle complex humanitarian issues or support organizations that are doing so. At a broad level, we like to think of social impact design as “designing for good”.
We know that good design is an invaluable factor in the success of products, brands, and experiences. Thus, when applying thoughtful design to the products, brands, and experiences of organizations that serve the community, there is potential for immense benefit.
In practice, social impact design encompasses a broad range of projects, which indicates the number of potential opportunities for those interested in pursuing it. Each design firm has the flexibility to choose its focus, whether problem-driven (addressing specific issues like food accessibility or education disparity), geographically driven (concentrating efforts in specific communities or areas), or a combination of both.
Projects within each focus can vary greatly, ranging from simple branding updates for non-profit organizations to year-long community co-creation efforts aimed at addressing larger societal issues.
Our specific flavor of social impact design is traced back to our core values, focusing on how we can tangibly impact our local community with the talents, tools, and expertise we’ve developed over the last 30 years.
We want to start small and impact our local community of Whitehall and the Columbus area. Rather than limiting us, keeping our focus local empowers us to engage with organizations around us and embrace the good that people are already doing. With that said, we are seeking opportunities to connect our unique capabilities with organizations in our community and develop future partnerships, to have even a small positive impact in our city.
If you’re curious about what our “unique capabilities” look like, check out our website to get a better sense of everything we do here. As we build relationships with non-profits in our community and find the best way to work together, we are eager to see the impact these partnerships can have.
We’ve been fortunate to work with a few amazing organizations to support our community in the last year. There are so many organizations in Columbus doing incredible work, and we’re proud of the small impact we can have to help them move forward. Check out a few of the organizations we’ve had the opportunity to support:
Pilot Dogs is a local non-profit focused on helping those who are blind or visually impaired achieve greater independence and mobility through a variety of programs including the training of world-class guide dogs. The opportunity to partner with an organization that loves dogs as much as we do had our ears perked up and our team excited.
We partnered with the Pilot Dogs team to design and prototype different harnesses used for the training of their guide dogs. We were grateful to be able to bring our design and soft goods expertise alongside their team’s expertise in guide-dog training to develop and prototype a product that now has a tangible impact on our local community. If you’re interested in learning more about Pilot Dogs and how to get involved, check out their website.
Design Outreach (“DO”) is another local non-profit we have had the pleasure to support. DO focuses on improving the lives of those living in poverty through innovative and appropriate technologies.
Their flagship product, the LifePump, has been installed in countries across the globe from Malawi to Guatemala to Haiti, providing reliable, safe drinking water for rural communities. Located just up the road from our office in Whitehall, we were first introduced to Design Outreach in January 2022, and were blown away by the work their team is doing and how seamlessly their needs fit with our capabilities.
We’ve partnered with them on a variety of projects providing everything from engineering and prototyping support to industrial design and human factors expertise. We’re grateful to be able to support a local organization that has such a positive global impact. For more information on Design Outreach, check out their website.
Outside of hoping to expand serving local organizations in our community, we’re always looking for new ways to invest in the people in our community, especially youth, with design-minded mentorship and support.
We’ve had the opportunity to partner with Whitehall High School’s STEM program in their participation in the Soapbox Derby, for the second consecutive year, engaging with students as they learn the fundamentals of engineering and physics. You can even check out one of the soapbox derby cars next time you visit our office!
And naturally, we love being able to host, mentor, and support student designers at OSU and other local universities/schools. It’s been exciting to see how even a simple act of opening our doors to our community can lead to a positive impact.
It has been exciting to see the cross-section of where our team and passions meet some of the needs in our community. As we continue to develop our work in this area, we want to be open to letting our community lead us in what this relationship should look like, stepping back and letting organizations who’ve been experts in their respective areas, show us the best way to go. Our goal is to lend our expertise and skillset while collaborating on impactful solutions.
We’re excited to grow in this space and learn how the tools and talents of our team can be harnessed to support and improve our local community, Whitehall and beyond.
If you’re interested in learning more about Priority Design’s efforts in our community or are a non-profit/local organization that could benefit from our capabilities, please contact us.